Moves to turn the iconic Covesea Skerries Lighthouse near Lossiemouth into a heritage centre took a a step forward on Tuesday night.
Notification has been received from the Scottish Government that the proposed public sale of the building has been postponed for six months to allow a community buyout to take place.
On Tuesday members of the community trust, who formed to look into the viability of the project, were in celebratory mood as the first major hurdle was overcome.
Proposals for the future of the lighthouse were launched when the Northern Lighthouse Board announced earlier this year that the light itself would be switched off as it was no longer required by shipping on the Moray Firth.
That sparked moves by the Lossiemouth Business Association (LBA) to initiate a feasibility study into a community buyout of the building, with a view to creating a heritage centre.
Interest was immediately shown throughout the community, including from RAF Lossiemouth where a large collection of local historic artefacts is held in the station "history room".
Following a meeting in May a small group was formed as the core of a community trust, while funding for a feasibility study was obtained from the LBA and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Tony Rook, secretary of the LBA and a member of the community trust, said that confirmation had been received from the Scottish Government that the sale of the building was now on hold.
He said: “We have been informed that the community has six months to raise the necessary funds. An independent valuer has been appointed by Scottish Ministers and we will be informed soon just how much we will be required to raise.
“Given the value placed on the Lighthouse when it was put up for sale recently that could be around the £300,000 mark.
“Our next move is to hold a meeting of the members of the Community Lighthouse Trust very early in September. At the meeting a presentation will be made and officials from the Scottish Government will attend to answer questions and put forward the views of the government.”
Vision for the Future
Mr Rook added that it was now down to the local community to help raise the initial funding to purchase the building, and so long as that was successfully achieved in the six months allowed then a long-term future can be planned for the facility.
He said: “This project will bring people to Lossiemouth, it will allow public access to a historic site that in the past has been restricted. We believe that this would strengthen the economic development of the town which is something the LBA has been trying to do for many years.
“It is excellent news and if we are successful in raising the required funds to purchase the Lighthouse and then develop it into the Heritage Centre we all want then it will become a major attraction that would bring people from far and wide to our town.
“This is a win-win situation for Lossiemouth - but we are under no illusions, it has been and will be a great deal of hard work.
“What we ask now is that those who want to see the Lighthouse established for future generations attend meetings and help us in any way they can.”